Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland - a step closer
The reform of Irish gambling laws is picking up pace following the publication of the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill on 21 October 2021 with two key developments.
On 25 February 2022, the role of CEO of the new statutory regulatory authority was advertised, with a closing date for applications of 21 March 2022.
The parliamentary Joint Committee is also due to begin pre-legislative scrutiny of the Gambling Regulation Bill later today, 8 March 2022.
Earlier in 2021 the Department of Justice outlined its targeted timeframe for the reform of Irish gambling law and the establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (the Authority) in its 'Justice Plan 2021' and its 'Statement of Strategy 2021-2023'.
The Justice Plan envisaged that a fully independent Director / CEO of the new statutory gambling regulatory authority would be established by Q4 2021. Although the timelines in the Justice Plan have not been fully adhered to, the Department of Justice is taking steps towards the Authority becoming operational and recently published an advertisement on 25 February 2022 seeking candidates for appointment to the role of CEO to establish and lead the new Authority.
Proposed functions and regulatory objectives of the Authority
The scope of the Authority, according to the published advertisement, will include the regulation of gambling services (including gaming, betting and lotteries) by both the commercial and non-commercial providers of such services, including the advertisement of such services. The State's objective is to achieve a high degree of compliance with the Act.
It will have broad powers to set the terms of licences, regulate the fees to be paid by licence holders, investigate compliance and breaches of licences and regulations, impose significant administrative sanctions, instigate criminal prosecutions and promote public awareness of gambling regulation.
It will also issue Codes of Practice and Conduct, make orders and regulations on technical and other compliance standards, and will also investigate and address complaints in relation to the provision and licencing of the relevant services under its remit. It will be responsible for addressing money laundering activities in the context of gambling services and will aim to prevent gambling-related match fixing and the manipulation of sporting events.
In order to protect and promote the public interest and society, the Authority is to also establish and maintain a social fund to support the provision of services to treat gambling addiction, fund research, training, community interventions into treatment of gambling addiction including supporting public education and awareness programmes.
The Authority is to operate as an independent regulator under the policy aegis of the Department of Justice. The governance framework for the Authority will be as set out in the General Scheme and enacted in the ensuing legislation. However, it should be noted that 'The National Lottery', the state lottery of Ireland, is excluded from the Authority’s regulatory remit.
Appointment of the new CEO
The CEO will be appointed by the Minister for Justice on the recommendation of the Chief Executive of the Public Appointments Service following an open, public competition.
The CEO is to hold office for a period not exceeding five years, but may be reappointed for a second five year term on the recommendation of the Authority. The CEO shall not be a member of the Authority but may attend and speak at meetings of the Authority.
The overarching responsibilities of the CEO will include the planning, set-up and development of the new Gambling Regulatory Authority in meeting its statutory objectives, developing a range of appropriate strategies, policies and solutions to the issues facing the Authority which comply with the legislative framework of the body while also being closely involved with the overall development of both the legislation and the operational aspects of the Authority.
It seems clear that the appointment of the CEO is to act as a catalyst for getting the Authority up and running. With this in mind, previous professorial knowledge of the gaming industry and / or regulatory experience, are 'highly desirable' in terms of putative candidates for the post.
As the Authority is not yet established and its location has yet to be determined by government it is envisaged that the role will temporarily be based in the Department of Justice until such time as the Authority is established in its own location.
Reform picks up pace
In summary, while there has been some delays to the timelines previously envisaged, Irish gambling law reform is pushing ahead. Alongside this development regarding the CEO of the new Authority, the parliamentary Joint Committee will also begin pre-legislative scrutiny of the Gambling Regulation Bill today (8 March 2022). Representatives from Entain, Flutter Entertainment, the Irish Bookmakers Association, Lottoland and Colm Finlay from BetXS are scheduled to attend this meeting.
We will continue to keep you updated on key developments, but as matters stand, the prospect of a new regulatory regime coming into force by 2023 certainly remains in sight.
For further information please contact Joe Kelly, Partner, Katie O'Connor, Partner, Denise Daly Byrne, Associate or any member of A&L Goodbody's Betting, Gaming & Licensing team.
Date published: 8 March 2022